(This was an article that I originally published during the 2011 season. I think it still applies today, so I decided to re-print it).
I know it was a proud moment for the parents and loved ones of your freshmen sons and daughters who were selected to play varsity basketball this season. It is a great accomplishment for a young player to get promoted to the varsity so early in their high school careers.
and Dad have spent countless hours in the gyms and spent numerous nights on the road following their children in youth basketball tournaments for years in hopes of seeing this day come. When it actually happens, many have great expectations as to what those kids will accomplish as a freshman.
Many of those kids have been great grade-school players with lots of experience at national tournaments. Naturally, we think that success is going to translate to instant success at the high school varsity level.
Not so fast.
While there are many examples of young freshmen making an instant impact around the area, the majority of them are learning the ropes and paying their dues in the big show. Some youngsters are getting to play, but they play limited minutes behind their older, more experienced teammates.
Other young players are getting to dress on the varsity, but see little or no playing time. Then, there are others who do not get a varsity uniform at all. They are spending their time on the junior varsity, getting valuable playing experience.
Regardless of the talent of the freshman, it is a big adjustment to the varsity level, where the players are bigger, stronger, older and more experienced. However, there is an even bigger adjustment for the parents, especially the ones who have highly-touted youngsters. It has been rough on some of these good folks as they watch their sons play very little or not at all.
Many parents were all set to see their kids shine on the varsity stage from Day 1 and many are disappointed when it doesn’t happen right away. I’ve spoken to many freshmen parents this season and they are not handling it too well. It’s been hard on them. The kid is frustrated, which makes the parents’ frustration level grow even more.
I’ve listened to the complaints, witnessed the uneasy body language while sitting in the bleachers; and even seen a few parents walk out of the gym in disgust. Soon, the talk of transferring to another school comes into play. It happens every year. Some folks see their peers and summer teammates get plenty of run with their varsity teams and wonder why it is not happening with their kids. It’s hard to go from playing all the time to playing only some of the time or not at all, but sometimes that comes with the territory of going to a higher level of competition.
I know it’s hard folks, but listen to the Old School Geezer on this one. It gets better. Have a little patience. Things are going to work out.
You have a talented young kid that lives in your house and there’s a reason why he was selected to play on the varsity in the first play. The kid can play. However, the varsity level is a different ball game from anything the youngster went through in eighth grade. The youngster is battling older, mature kids who want to shine too and they see this year as their opportunity. Their parents have been waiting for the day that their kids can get to be in the spotlight and they aren’t in a hurry to turn things over to a rookie, no matter how good he is.
Many coaches like to work their talented young players in gradually and not put too much pressure on them. That is especially the case when they have some good veterans around to do the heavy lifting. A few minutes here. A few minutes there. If the talent is scarce, then the freshman is bound to play early and often. The clock starts right away. Some coaches are still old-school and have the philosophy what freshmen are going to sit and wait their turns. Different coaches have different beliefs when it comes to playing freshmen. Some throw them in the fire right away while others are more cautious. It depends on the program and situation.
Parents. Just encourage your kids to continue to work hard, listen and do the things that made them a successful player in the first place. I know this may be hard, but try to keep a positive attitude and make sure the youngster remains positive.
Whether your freshman son son plays two minutes a game or the full 32 minutes, each minute in a varsity game is a valuable experience in his development as a player. In practice, he is going against an older player and getting better every day. Make sure the youngster stays prepared and ready at all times. There will be a time this season when the youngster will be called on in a tight spot and you want him to be ready and prepared for that moment.
Remember, this is a four-year process, not a one-year deal. This is a year of learning what varsity basketball is all about and beginning the process of making yourself better. Every day makes you one day better and more experienced.
I can speak from personal experience on this one because I have a loved one who’s a freshman playing on the varsity. He plays limited minutes, but he’s getting a great basketball education, which will benefit him greatly in the future. To me, it’s a blessing to see him out there competing with the old-heads at such a young age. I am also getting educated as well because it shows me the things we have to work on in the off-season to prepare him for the day when he becomes a full-time player who is depended on night in and night out. That is when it gets real serious.
If things never do get any better, you always have the freedom to do what you feel is best for your kid. However, it’s still early and it’s the beginning of the process. Sometimes, the process is a little slower for others, but as long as you keep the youngster moving in the right direction, you are going to be fine.
Just be patient.